Children with autism, ADHD visit the doctor more during infancy

October 20, 2020

According to research, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects approximately 1.5% and 11% of children in the US, respectively; ADHD symptoms also present in up to 60% of children with ASD. Duke Health researchers have found that children who are later diagnosed with ASD or ADHD are associated with higher utilisation of health care services much earlier in life than non-affected children.

The researchers used about 10 years of data collected from the electronic health records of nearly 30,000 patients, primarily at Duke University Health System, who had at least two well-child visits before age one. Their first-year records for hospital admissions, procedures, emergency department visits and outpatient clinical appointments were analysed accordingly.

Children who were later found to have diagnoses of ASD or ADHD or both tended to result in longer hospital stays after birth, compared to children without the disorders.

Specifically, children later diagnosed with ASD were noted to have had higher numbers of hospital procedures, including intubation and ventilation, and more outpatient specialty care visits for services such as physical therapy and eye appointments. Those later found to have ADHD also had more procedures, including blood transfusions, more hospital admissions and more emergency department visits.

“This study provides evidence that children who develop autism and ADHD are on a different path from the beginning[…] this indicates that distinctive patterns of utilisation begin early in these children’s lives. It could provide an opportunity to intervene sooner,” said Matthew Engelhard, a senior research associate at Duke.

Meanwhile,Geraldine Dawson, Director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences said children with ASD and ADHD often receive their diagnosis much later, and so miss out on the proven benefits that early interventions can bring. “Owing to the brain’s inherent malleability—its neuroplasticity—early detection and intervention are critical to improving outcomes in ASD, especially in terms of language and social skills.”

The researchers plan to conduct additional analyses to explore more fully what specific health concerns prompted the extra doctor and hospital visits, and if children will benefit from resources such as automated surveillance tools.

Tags: ,

Category: Education, Features

Comments are closed.